- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2008

Rod Pampling was two holes into play at the AT&T National on Thursday when he came up just shy of the 11th green.

No matter - he just chipped it in, not the first time he would make do with a less-than-ideal situation at Congressional Country Club.

“That was a nice way to kick the round off,” Pampling said.

The opportunistic Pampling shot a 4-under 66 and shares second place with Bob Estes, Frank Lickliter and Jeff Overton entering the second round.

The fast start could be a harbinger for Pampling, who displayed all-or-nothing tendencies throughout the first half of the year.

After a pair of midpack tournaments in early January, Pampling started to produce hot-and-cold results. In his last 16 events, the Aussie has finished in the top 25 eight times - and missed the cut in the other eight tournaments.

There isn’t a particular pattern, though Pampling has fared better of late. He tied for second at Colonial in May, tied for 14th in last month’s U.S. Open and then tied for 17th at last week’s Buick Open.

The only thing missing is a win - something Pampling collected in both 2004 (at the now-defunct International, which the AT&T replaced on the schedule) and 2006 (at Bay Hill).

“It’s kind of hit-and-miss,” Pampling said. “If I make the cut, I’ll be playing really well. If not, I’ll miss the cut. It’s one of those years I’m like 50-50, whereas normally I only miss three or four cuts a year. It’s certainly been different.”

So was his round yesterday, which hinted at perhaps a slightly kinder, gentler Congressional than a year ago - or the setup for the U.S. Open in 2011. Pampling ignited a stretch of three straight birdies in unusual fashion, sticking his approach shot from the rough within four feet at No. 15.

He went on to birdie No. 16 after an up-and-down out of the bunker, then rolled in a 25-footer at the 17th to reach 4 under.

It was a run that probably wouldn’t have happened in the event’s first year, when a deeper, gnarlier rough wrought havoc with the field.

“I doubt it,” Pampling said. “I would have been trying to hit it just shy of the bunkers and the green and just chipping it up. … You had to hit every fairway basically to have a shot at the green; otherwise it was chipping out sideways. It’s playing fantastic and this time allows you to have a go at the greens if you’re in the rough.”

There were still hiccups to come for Pampling, who trails leader Steve Marino by a stroke. Pampling bogeyed Nos. 4 and 6 but rallied for birdies at the seventh and the ninth to finish as strong as he started.

While Pampling’s pattern suggests he will remain in contention for the rest of the week, his longer-term history is also encouraging. He tied for seventh when the Booz Allen Classic visited Congressional in 2005 and then tied for 19th in last year’s AT&T National.

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